Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Butternut Squash Spread

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and as you may imagine, it's kind of a big deal around here.  The planning typically begins in August when seeds go into the ground, along with a hope and a prayer that maturity will be reached by mid-November.  Radish, beets, swiss chard, a spicy mesclun mix from Johnny's and  shelling peas are still growing well (albeit under a low tunnel with a 4 mil greenhouse film covering) and should be a part of our dinner this year.

As for planning the meal itself, recipe selection began today.  It's kind of like the NFL draft, all past recipes on one side, possible new recipes on the other.  There are some non-negotiables in our family.

1.  Fresh turkey, in any form and cooked in any manner.  We've deep fried them, dry brined, wet brined, Cajun injected, spatchcocked, de-boned and rolled, stuffed, unstuffed and broken down to cook legs and breasts separately.  This year's method is yet to be determined.

2.  Mashed potatoes and gravy.  Lots of both.  The gravy project began earlier this week with The Making of the Turkey Stock.  Turkey wings and backs get roasted with leeks, carrots and celery, then moved to a stock pot with a good amount of water and simmered for a couple hours to extract every bit of turkiness.

3.  Corn.  It's a boy thing.  All the y chromosomes in our family would raise a holy ruckus if corn weren't on the table, in all its yellow (or white) glory.  We've tried fancy schamancy preps here, but it always seem to come back to Green Giant Shoepeg White Corn in Butter Sauce.  I figure once a year won't kill me.  It's a Connecticut/Jersey thing.

4.  Cranberry sauce, jellied, from Ocean Spray.  Personally, I can't stand the stuff and always make a fresh alternative.  My husband, the Foodie, would leave the table to go buy a can if it wasn't in evidence.  Like sour cream, he doesn't have a problem opening the can and taking a spoon to it.  Eww.

Those are The Basics that Must Be Provided.  Pretty simple really.  If only I could leave it at that.

But I can't.

We don't sit to eat until 2pm typically, but no one goes hungry until then.  The all day buffet starts with a light and healthy breakfast and morphs into heavier hors d'oeuvres and canapes as the morning progresses.  Here's one of our favorite I'll be making the day before - it's simple, tasty, and healthy.

Butternut Spread

2# squash peeled, cleaned and cut into 1" cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar, not packed
1 tbsp olive oil

Toss ingredients together with salt and pepper.  Spread onto a lined cookie sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until squash is tender and slightly caramelized.  Very fresh squash will take a little longer to reach this state, but never more than 30 minutes.

While squash is roasting, in a small pan saute:

one small onion, minced
in 1 tbsp butter

once onion is translucent, add:

 2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground coriander (or to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin (or to taste)

and continue to cook another minute, until coriander and cumin are fragrant.

Dump squash and onion mixture into a food processor and blitz, adding up to 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil to smooth out the puree.  I typically use as small amount as possible to achieve a good consistency because to finish, you're going to add:

1/4 creme fraiche or full fat Greek yogurt

I don't like sour cream as a creme fraiche substitute, it's too heavy and sour.  The perfect substitute may be Mexican or Salvadoran crema, look for it in your local bodega.

Finish with a nice pinch of salt and some additional black or white pepper.  If you plan on serving this cold, over season it just a bit now when it's still warm or room temp, it will be just right when you serve.

This spread is a wonderful with crackers or bread, as well as your typical crudite.  It makes a nice change from hummus, and if your kids won't eat that, they may like this.  It's also great on apple slices, makes a tasty cheese sandwich spread, and thinned with some broth makes a nice soup.

For a vegan version, substitute olive oil for the butter and use a little coconut milk (unsweetened) instead of creme fraiche.

Happy cooking!

Last Minute Gifts for Your Favorite Cooks

A Guest Blog by Cyn

Hello Holiday Shoppers!

What to get the Cook in your life?  It's been a hot topic of conversation lately, with friends and family all wondering what to procure for each other for the holidays, and some of my foodie friends sharing their lists for Santa with me.  We've got some great ideas, some of which are even free!!!

For the avid cheffers in your household, here are my favorite to get and receive gifts:

Wicked sharp paring knives, the semi-disposable kind that come in a multi pack at your local home store.  We don't always want to use our 'good' knives for some of the more menial tasks in the kitchen.  Loud and obnoxious colors are a good thing for handles, so don't be afraid to color it up a bit.  The hotter the color the less likely we are to lose the knife in whatever we're peeling.

Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peelers are the best vegetable peelers for my money.
And as veg peelers are nearly impossible to sharpen, you'll want to buy them in packs of 3, which fortuitously, is how these are packaged.  Great stocking stuffer!  (Note of Warning:  these are for advanced peelers - they work best and fastest when you hold the veg in one hand and rotate as you peel with the other, bring the peeler toward you.  More of a professional bad ass style of peeling, but with a little practice, anyone can master this.  It's incredibly fast, and no, you won't cut yourself, regardless of what your mother may have told you.  Good for peeling carrots. <snort>)

Finishing salt.  Some of which can now be found at your local grocer - check the aisle - betcha you find something fancy!

Interesting vinegars.  Champagne, fig, raspberry, we don't discriminate.  Really want to impress us?  Make us a bottle.

Good cookbooks.  Check out James Beard Award Winners, Amazon has a nice list.  If you are lucky enough to have a good used book store in your city, a well loved and used version of a classic cookbook (preferably with notes in the margins) makes a great gift.  Some of my favorite must have food books are, in no order of preference;

The Flavor Bible, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg
Gourmet Cookbook (the yellow one), edited by Ruth Reichl
Baking: From My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan
anything by Jamie Oliver (what can I say?  I have a soft spot for grungy Brits who have big gardens and want kids to eat well)
and speaking of Brits ----
Nigel Slater's Tender is a fabulous food and garden read
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi is a must for your vegetarian.

Now about those 'free' gifts....find a few of your favorite recipes and copy them onto pretty card stock.  Double points for writing them out by hand.  This is probably one of my most favorite gifts to receive.

Create a coupon for a free kitchen clean up, or for a free recipe organization of everything that's been shoved into that file folder next to the Cuisinart.  It'll cost you some time, but isn't spending a little time with your loved ones really what the holiday is all about?

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